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.
The thoughts I’ve been sharing in classes this week are inspired by a new Ikea “Magic Mirror.” Right now the mirror is a prototype but Ikea tested it out in Britain.
Somewhat like how the fairy tale goes, the mirror talks to you and compliments you. As part of Ikea’s test run, they decided to conduct a Dove-like experiment to see how people reacted to what they saw in the mirror. The mirror asked, “Do you like what you see?” and then people answered along a sliding scale of “eh, not so hot” to “feeling hot.” What they discovered is what we’ve all been battling——ourselves and being so overly critical and judgmental of ourselves—saying they were not happy with what they saw.
This reminds me of something I read recently—”Your best is always good enough, because it comes from you, and you are always good enough.”
How many times have you put your effort towards something to only say, “Well, I did my best” in such a settling tone as if your best wasn’t enough? If you really think about it, this self-criticism or self-judgement you place on yourself either comes from ego or the need deliver someone else’s idea of the best. It’s so easy to get caught up in the idea of trying to be the best—to look your best, be the best friend, spouse, parent, or employee. More often than not, our desire to look or be the best is based on someone else’s vision of success.
Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve, but you really have to look deep to see what is driving that. If you let go of that tendency to live up to other people’s standards and let go of the need to compete and win, it doesn’t mean that you’re not doing the best job you can. Rather, it means you’re fulfilling your OWN potential and staying true to yourself and your own purpose, regardless of how other’s perceive you or the outcome.
So whether its on the mat, off the mat, in front of the mirror (talking or not), how you look, what you do, quit short-changing yourself & remind yourself:
“Your best is ALWAYS good enough, because it comes from you, and you are ALWAYS good enough.”
My theme this week has been based on this interesting story I read recently.
“There is a tribe in Africa called the Himba tribe, where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she meditates and listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.”
Isn’t that story so interesting? It’s so off topic, but there’s this Family Guy episode (I know, haha) where Peter Griffin wants to have his own “theme song” to play as he moves through his day. And essentially, this Himba tribe tradition is creating a theme song for a person from the moment it comes to a mother’s time in meditation, through that person’s whole life, to the day that person dies.
You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you to celebrate your happy moments or sings to you during your challenging ones, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes it may help you.
As yogis, I like to think that our breath is our song. It works in a similar way, carrying us through our good moments and the challenging ones too. The song of our breath keeps us in tune.
Last week I themed classes based on Ahimsa (Sanskrit for non-harming) and it was so interesting to see how that theme morphed into other life lessons. When I told you about the woman on her phone, some of you said things like “Hope she never comes to class again,” or “oh, because its Lifetime,” or “What’s wrong with people.” Um, folks, YOU were not practicing Ahimsa either.
Funny thing is that we are so quick to judge and point fingers without really knowing the whole story. Now, some of you gave this woman the benefit of the doubt saying that maybe she was having a bad day and could actually take her yoga & its lessons to heart to maybe change things. And, that my friends, IS Ahimsa—offering up love and compassion.
I found out much later that this woman was, in fact, having a really bad day. The contempt she had on her face during the class was not directed towards me. It was because she had a hard time letting go of the pain, which happened to show forth in her face and body. That only goes to show that we don’t always know what kind of crap people are going through. She came to the mat for the same purpose as you. It was just harder for her to practice her own Ahimsa. So, why put more harm onto someone already in pain?
Now, those who placed judgment, you’re not bad people. You’re only human. We unfortunately tend to quickly place blame, hurt, or judgment not only onto others, but onto even ourselves—saying we’re not good enough or we are failures. Even I am victim of not practicing what I preach. I am not perfect either. It happens.
Our practice of yoga is a constant reminder to live Ahimsa. To live with love and compassion. To move and breathe within the asanas with love and compassion. In turn, to treat others, to think of others and ourselves, with love and compassion.
It’s a lot harder to do than you think! We can be impulsive people who place undue harm onto others or ourselves if we don’t think before we act upon our thoughts. So, the next time you find yourself in a situation of harm in any form, take a moment, breathe, and practice Ahimsa. Love.