3:11 pm

Ahimsa Starts with Yourself

Ahimsa, means "do no harm." Cathy examines how this practice impacts her life.

I'm celebrating a birthday next week. This one moves me to a new "age check box." Needless to say I've been doing a little self-reflection. Luckily this past year has been amazing. I didn't earn my fortune, start a new career, or even travel around the world. Instead, I started yoga teacher training the day before my birthday last year and honestly, I'm not the person I was 365 days ago.

But then I continued to look back at the rest of my life and it made me a little sad. I looked at the events and opportunities I've missed because of my own self-doubt. It made me wish I would have come to yoga earlier.

In yoga, we practice a concept of Ahimsa or do no harm. This yama says not to harm others or our world, but for me this practice had to start with myself first. See I have an ugly little voice in my head that constantly whispers "You can't. You aren't brave, strong, smart, pretty, skinny, funny enough." These thoughts and words I allowed myself to think were causing me harm -- lots of harm.

Breaking the power of that little voice is hard. I still struggle. Yoga both on the mat and off the mat have helped. On the mat I have challenged myself into poses I never thought possible -- and I've fallen flat on my face trying them. (Thanks to crow pose I can confirm the floor does hurt when you smack your nose against it!) But I never give up. Off the mat, I've learned to breathe, take a moment to think, and recognize that I am the only me out there -- with my quirky ways, lopsided smile, and laugh that is entirely too loud for most situations. During yoga teacher training, we had a mantra "you are perfect in your imperfections" or to quote my favorite author, Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

So today when I looked in the mirror, I saw every single one of the days that landed me in a new check box. New grey hairs, wrinkles around my eyes, a body that isn't as skinny as it once was.....but then I saw the woman who biked the Golden Gate Bridge, finally nailed crow pose, has built amazing friendships, and traveled to amazing places all across this world. I realized then that this new check box just brings new opportunities to conquer.....and I CAN do it.

I'm practicing Ahimsa with myself. Showing some kindness, trying to keep that ugly little voice from doing harm. Me and my imperfections are ready for the next check box.....and looking forward to every day I get to spend in it!

So I ask you -- how do you practice Ahimsa with yourself?

3:12 pm

Is Yoga a Religion?

Does yoga have a "religion?" Ashley shares her perspective.

Growing up, organized religion was never a part of my life. My parents didn’t practice it though they encouraged me to check things out on my own. So I did. I tagged along with friends….sitting through services at various denominations and wondering when I was going to ‘get’ that feeling that people must have when they leave church. Then, about seven years ago, on a snowy Sunday in Colorado, I stepped into my first yoga class. As I was driving home, fully in the throes of my very first yoga buzz, I realized that ‘this’ is what people must feel like when they leave church—content….and connected.

Obviously I thought this whole thing was pretty cool because I continued showing up every Sunday after that. And now, as a yoga teacher, the question comes up every now and then---“What religion is yoga?” From what I know based on things I’ve learned my answer is ‘none of them’. From what I feel in the depth of my being my answer is ‘all of them.’

The short story is this: the practice of yoga goes back, like waaayyy back, to roots in India. The origins of Hinduism, Buddhism AND yoga are all vedic but yoga as a tradition predates even the formulation of what modern Hindus think of as their religion. Sure, a lot of the names for the poses come from Hindu mythology and a lot of the themes or intentions used in class sound kind of Buddhist in nature. But the bottom line is that it’s not any of these religions. It is a spiritual practice. And in my opinion, it is a spiritual practice that doesn’t clash with any other religion that’s practiced by students, but rather could serve to enhance that practitioner’s connection to their religion.

And that’s what I love about yoga….it doesn’t ask us to adhere to or prescribe to any particular God or being…..it just asks us to show up. It asks us to merely link our movements to our breath and to see where that takes us. Maybe it takes us further down the path of studying the eight limbed path of yoga. But maybe it just takes us to a place where we leave class filled with a feeling of being content…and being connected. And well, I think that’s plenty.

sunset-691848

3:13 pm

Skinny Jeans vs. Self Acceptance

Cathy looks at New Year's resolutions vs growing comfortable in your self.

Skinny Jeans vs. Self-Acceptance - Which Will You Choose?

Welcome to the new year -- which means welcome to resolution central. Many years ago, I made a New Year's resolution to never make another New Year's resolution. It is the only one I ever kept.

I've been on a self-acceptance kick lately. The concept of New Year's resolution seems counter intuitive to this practice. Most resolutions deal with losing weight or stopping a particular behavior (like smoking) -- not bad changes; however, these also seem to say "I'm not good enough as I am. When I successfully achieve these goals, THEN I will be happy/satisfied/like myself."

Instead of resolving to be something in the future, let's follow the yoga principle of living in the moment. That means being the best person you can be now. Will you be skinnier now? No-- but you can still be kind and content with yourself as you are today. Will you stop smoking now? Maybe -- but what about 5 minutes from now? If you are living in the moment and trying to be the best person you can be now, you give yourself permission to CHOOSE to eat healthy, you CHOOSE to exercise, you CHOOSE to skip that cigarette. It isn't about some fake promise of who you can be in the future. More importantly, if you are living in the moment, then your mistakes and bad choices don't define who you are -- because you aren't living in the past either. I will eat cake on my birthday (and LOVE every bite.) But I won't beat myself up or give up on being a better version of myself because I "failed" at some silly promise I made myself on a particular date on the calendar.

You don't need to make a resolution to be the best person you can be in this moment. Just find a little joy in the journey. Attempt to make good decisions and forgive yourself when you don't. Practice self-acceptance and kindness to yourself -- it feels better than any pair of skinny jeans you could wear.