“All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
When I was looking for a quote that would best fit this photo, I was so drawn to this one by Leo Tolstoy. It’s obvious to see the beauty of things when light shines upon it. We tend to equate darkness with the Ugly—but even through the darkness, something beautiful always comes.
These twin forces of light and dark direct our lives towards maintaining balance in life. Without light, there would be no shadow. Each can only exist because of the other.
Life finds meaning in the contrasts. Life is transformed by the interaction of the light and dark moments.
How have you found the light within yourself to find the balance and beauty in life?
PURA VIDA—It’s one of the things that I always take back with me & try to fully embrace each time I return from Costa Rica. It means “simple life” or “pure life”.
Locals, called Ticos, say Pura Vida (poo-rah-bee-da) a lot like a greeting of hello or goodbye. But it is more than just a saying—it is a way of life in Costa Rica. Ticos have a very relaxed, simple way of looking at life. No worries, no fuss, no stress. Pura Vida to them means being thankful for what they have, not dwelling on the negative and to live life from a deep sense of passion.
I think I’m so drawn to Costa Rica and this Pura Vida life because it reminds me of the Niyamas (personal observances) in Patanjali’s second limb of the 8-limb yogic path—specifically, the niyamas Saucha and Santosha.
Saucha is loosely translated as “cleanliness” but it doesn’t mean make your bed every day (although I do 😊). Saucha relates very closely to Pura Vida. When you practice saucha, you eliminate the impurities around you—toxic people, your environment, harmful situations, etc. Saucha also invites you to cleanse and purify your body and minds by practicing yoga/mediation, eating healthy, speaking truthfully and from a place of love, and living more simply, etc. When you purify yourself from the heaviness & clutter of toxins and distractions, you gain clarity to meet each moment with integrity and you begin to feel lighter, more spacious, free/clear, & expansive.
Santosha means “contentment”. This niyama tells you that when you are perfectly content with all that life gives you and open your heart in gratitude for what you do have, then you attain true happiness & joy. We get so caught up in our wants and desires that we begin to equate happiness with materialism or labels. Practicing santosha frees you from that unnecessary suffering and instead fills you with gratitude and joy for all life’s blessings in this moment.
The beauty of all this is that you don’t need a country, a saying, the sun, nor the beach, to live Pura Vida, Saucha, Santosha or any of the other niyamas. It all begins with YOU.
🧡Cleanse your body, your speech, your thoughts
🧡Fall in love with life. Your life. And be thankful for it.
Hey, just in case you forgot…✨You Are Beautiful✨
When we think of beauty, we instantly think of our outward appearance. Unfortunately, we add our criticisms and judgements to it. Just like you, I do it all the time. I’m fully aware of the wrinkles here and extra rolls there. I just have to remind myself that these “alterations” change my appearance but they do not define my beauty.
“The beauty of a woman must be seen from her EYES, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.”
If you fill your heart space with love, kindness, patience, peace, strength and happiness, then you’ll exude all this inner beauty thus outshining all your physical insecurities. When beauty comes from within as much as without, it makes all of you beautiful. Yup, that includes the wrinkles and rolls!
How do you be that person who radiates beauty inside and out? It just takes a little inner work on your behalf. Love yourself. Accept yourself. Forgive yourself. Tell yourself you are awesome.
Hey, just in case you forgot…🧡You Are Beautiful. From the inside out. 🧡
Namaste, yogis 🧘🏻♀️
We’ve had quite a weekend here in the United States. The heavy, weighted energy from Friday (Trump’s Inauguration) was thankfully replaced when the clouds parted to give way to the light of the sun & the millions who marched in solidarity. No matter if you are in support or against, the Women’s March showed how women, men, and children from different races, ethnicities, sexualities, religious & cultural backgrounds can come together to empower each other.
In fact, all those people were practicing yoga, even if they have never even stepped foot on a mat. What we witnessed is Unity. The word yoga, comes from the sanskrit “yuj” which means to join, unite, yoke. Their unification empowered each other & their strong message. It took courage to stand, to have a voice, but joining each other/unifying with each other helped to them stand taller and speak louder.
I am reminded of the Bhavagad Gita which is a story of a warrior, Arjuna, who is faced with a battle he’s unwilling to fight. He relies upon the wisdom and guidance of Lord Krishna to help him understand his dharma (purpose). Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that there’s no need to fear and hide from life & duty. In book two, verse seventeen, Krishna assures Arjuna to trust in his oneness with God.
We’ve all been faced with times of challenge where we feel alone or cannot muster the courage, maybe even feeling disconnected to God or any higher Spirit, family and friends. As the story of the Bhavagad Gita and the Women’s March tells us that courage cannot exist in isolation. Judith Lasater states in Living Your Yoga, “Just as a flower needs sun, air, soil, and water to bloom, your courage depends on your interdependence with people and things. You must contemplate deeply to understand that when you do what is possible, you are not in a free fall, but are cradled by your interdependence with the world around you.”
When you lay your mat down this week, see how you can strengthen your courage muscle through your practice. When and how can you overcome resistance or fear? Feel the unified energy of your fellow students to elicit the courage you need on and off your mat.
Namaste, my friends.
*Lasater Ph.D. P.T., Judith (2010-06-30). Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life (p. 43). Rodmell Press.
*Women’s March in Chicago photo credit: Christine Truco via ABC 7 Chicago
*Yoga Within You Chacala 2016 Yoga Retreat photo
Every so often students will either tell me after class, email or text to say how they enjoyed my class. It’s always nice to hear. The other day a student texted me that “So & So” didn’t think class was hard, but she herself loved it. I replied saying, “That’s too bad. I’m sorry to have disappointed So & So. I hope the philosophical lesson wasn’t too hard for So & So. I’m glad you liked it though.” (Yes, I was being sarcastic.)
I mulled on that freaking text for days. I taught that same sequence to all my other classes, where the feedback was “that was great”, “that was challenging”, “that was HARD.” In fact, my husband took my class last night and commented afterwards, “that was brilliantly sequenced.” I laughed because I thought he was brown nosing the instructor, but he backed up his response saying how he appreciated how I weaved my theme into a carefully, thought out class. Thanks, Babe. Glad you noticed. That’s the SAME class So & So didn’t think was hard!
So, since I was attached to the feedback I received the other day (hey, I’m only human), I went back to read the text again. “So and So didn’t think class was hard. So & So SKIPPED ALL THE HARD POSES. I loved it!” Well, there it was!!! It wasn’t HARD because he SKIPPED poses! (insert rolled eyes & a shaking head).
This diatribe isn’t trying to solicit praise. It’s more about this question….”WHY DOES YOGA HAVE TO BE HARD?” What makes yoga hard anyway? Does it have to be hot? Does it have to move fast? Do you have to do tons of chaturangas? Do you have to have crazy loud music and a military-style practice?
WHAT MAKES YOGA HARD?…..Being present IN the practice makes yoga hard. So & So probably didn’t find it hard because he wasn’t quite present in the practice. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to skip postures. That’s not the point. Even if you skip something because it doesn’t feel right or you’re not quite at that level, you should still be in the moment.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.14 states: “The practice is firmly grounded when it is persistently done for a long time, without interruption, and WITH EARNEST, REVERENTIAL ATTENTION & DEVOTION.” In other words, practice with commitment and with complete awareness and presence.
What makes yoga challenging or hard is when you’re actually IN the moment. It’s not about standing on your hands or twisting into a pretzel or pushing yourself beyond your limits. It’s about FEELING THE FEELS—the good ones and the bad ones, the ones you do, the ones you skip.
Let me ask you this…What makes LIFE hard? Tons of stuff makes Life hard. But we know when its hard because we’re in it and PRESENT. If we were living life lackadaisically, all the hard crap would just glaze over us without even a thought or feeling.
We are all sometimes challenged by the Life that’s before us all, sometimes even feeling overwhelmed at its difficulty. Sure (and ironically), we sometimes seek a challenge in our practice too, but we should also seek its ease. As the practice of yoga teaches us, being forceful with our bodies, or in Life, has proven to be unhelpful on our mats or off our mats. We don’t need to push our bodies hard in order to be well or fulfilled. And the efforts we make to meet the challenges don’t need to be a struggle.
Feel the ease & namaste, friends.
Yesterday, my teacher Sharyn Galindo, spoke about Granthis. The Sanskrit word granthi means “knot” or “doubt” and also means “an especially difficult knot to untie.” Granthi in spiritual practice are psychological or psychic barriers to total freedom. They lock us to our misperception of reality (avidya) and self (asmita).
The best “layman” translation of this was when she mentioned how we all sometimes get the N.G.E.’s——also known as, the NOT GOOD ENOUGH’s. I loved it!! Think about all the things or situations you go through in life and then add the criticism or comparisons that tell you that you’re just not good enough. If you’re like me, that’s countless times.
- “I can’t touch my toes.”
- “My house isn’t big enough.”
- “I wish I had her abs.”
Ironically, I was going through some photos on my computer yesterday and I came across this photo taken in Costa Rica last December. I remember after reviewing it, I said to myself, “Nope, THAT’s not going on Instagram! The heels of my hands aren’t even touching! Grr..” Now, seeing it, I realize its time to dump the N.G.E.’s!
Why judge myself over not touching the heels of my hands in reverse namaste? I really should be more grateful. First of all, I was in COSTA RICA! Second, I was able to do this posture after dislocating my elbow years ago in volleyball, after breaking my rib from falling off my bike three years ago, and after muscle adhesion in my neck and shoulders! (Thank you Dr. Nottoli from Functional Spine and Sport for healing me of that)
So, screw the fact that my hands aren’t completely touching in reverse namaste. THIS is my good enough!! I AM good enough!!
Dump your N.G.E.’s too, people! Feel the freedom of being good enough in being YOU! Thank you, Sharyn, for the great reminder!! Namaste.
My class theme this morning was inspired by the events of my day yesterday. I met up with a childhood friend, Mary Angara Dreier, for a rooftop lunch at SoHo House Chicago. If you’ve never been or heard of it, it’s a pretty trendy, swanky members-only place where young execs, celebs, and creative geniuses of Chicago converge. I bet most of their income is equivalent to amount of down dogs I’ve done in my lifetime. But it was very cool. At one point I was thankful I decided NOT to wear yoga leggings. Whew! Anyway, that’s beside the point.
The real point is that I had this wonderful time with Mary, who happens to be one of those beautiful, inspiring, creative geniuses. She’s the mastermind, really this GREAT mind in this tiny little body (no joke!), behind Clout 5 Agency, a Chicago-based branding company that brings people together for the greater good. She believes your voice and your influence can make a difference, and her company helps to bring it to life. So, besides discussing how we would possibly collaborate, we had such deep, thoughtful discussions about Life. You know the kind—What is Life? Am I living the Life I should be? What do I do now that I’m in this new chapter of my Life? Is what I am doing enough? What is the answer?
So here’s this beautiful, intelligent, corporate guru asking me—this little yogi in the North Burbs who wears yoga pants for 12 hours out of day—to enlighten her. As I told her, I don’t have the answers. I did realize one thing, Mary is person of structure who needs A to follow B then C, and always seeking “something”. What that something is, who knows. She doesn’t even know, and that’s what can be perplexing at times. Thus, the Life questions. At one point, I asked myself, am I just naïve? Does my practice of Yoga stick my head in the clouds? Nope. I have the same questions and I can be structured, but I just don’t attach to them or have them rule my path in Life.
Later that evening, I decided to take a class with an instructor I’ve never been to before. The instructor was heavily Iyengar alignment-based, which I truly appreciate. However, this instructor was one of those militant Iyengar instructors—“Move your big toe a ¼ inch to the left…no, more, more….Now extend out of your middle finger and line it up a ½ inch to the right…almost, almost…ok there. Hold.” To prevent from really giving this instructor the middle finger (cuz its not yogic), I started to reflect on this yoga experience and how it related to my day. As much as I appreciate being in alignment, what if its just not what my body can do? Can’t that be ok?
Then it wasn’t until I saw yoga instructor Daren’s Friesen’s FB post this morning that it all came together. He posted a photo of a round peg faced with a square hole and a round hole. Well, lo and behold, that’s Life! Most people feel as if they are a square peg always trying to fit into a round hole. Forcing to find perfection when all it does is create frustration when it just won’t work.
I realized I’m a round peg in a square hole!! My round peg fits but its ok if its not completely perfect. And that’s how I view my life on and off the mat. In fact, I appreciate that I have space around my square hole because some days I have space to fit perfectly, whether structured in my life or alignment in my body. And yet I have enough space to Be Enough.
In the end, I’m not even sure if all of this makes sense, but ultimately my message to you is: Be okay being a round peg in a square hole. In Maya Angelou’s words, “If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing YOU can be.” Namaste.
Yesterday I put on real clothes (aka “not yoga clothes”) and used a jacket I wore last Spring. When I reached into the pocket I found a note card with this quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you say. People will forget what you do. But people will never forget how you made them feel.—Maya Angelou.”
I couldn’t help but smile—not only because it was a great find, but it reminded me of how I would randomly leave notes for Don and Casey whether it be in a jacket, lunch bag, car, or briefcase saying “I love you” or “Smile and share that smile” or even a quote like this Maya Angelou quote.
Later I thought deeper about this quote. A lot like yoga, I realized that my students will probably forget what I say, be it a quote or a cue, and they may even forget what they did in the sequence. But hopefully they have learned to tap deeper within the feeling centers of their bodies to truly remember how they feel. My goal for every practice is to guide my students via healthy cues to create integrity in their postures so they can understand and heighten their inner awareness…and simply FEEL.
Many times we get caught up in what the posture should look like or concentrate more on the end result, but you cannot forget about how it felt to get there and how it feels when you’re there, no matter how it looks on the outside. If it feels true and is done with integrity, you will feel aligned in body and in mind.
I also thought, too, that it all should come from an authentic place. Sometimes we say or do things because we “have to” or “should do” to make others happy. But if those words or actions come from an inauthentic place, then what you put out into the world is equally inauthentic. So our words and actions should also have integrity.
Maybe these thoughts will inspire your practice on an off your mat this week, my friends. Namaste.
ob·sta·cle – ˈäbstək(ə)l/ noun. “a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress.”
Today’s practice was about observing what we see as obstacles on or off our mat. Throughout most of the practice we used a block, not as an obstruction, but as an assistance. It was interesting to see if students reacted negatively to a block or if they just went with the flow.
Its a great metaphor for life. There will always be something getting in our way—a car in an extra parking space, stress, a pain in our shoulder, etc—but its important to remind yourself that you cannot always control an action, a situation, a person. Know that you have the power NOT to react negatively to it and give it more power over you.
In Savasana, I played the mantra “Om Gan Ganapataye Namaha” to call upon the powerful energy of Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles & the Lord of Beginnings as we brought attention to our Muladhara Chakra, the root chakra of beginnings, grounding and for clearing space. For those who asked, the song is by Sanjeev Abhyankar from the album Sounds of Spirituality.
Take this beautiful clear day as your reminder to clear your obstacles! Namaste.