3:06 pm

Strength is My Weakness

Finding Strength in My Weakness:

The past month has been a time of great emotional stress. A time of grief and loss. During this time, I've avoided my yoga mat. I've actually been afraid of my mat. Afraid that a challenging pose would bring up my feelings of fear about this new change. Afraid that pigeon pose would cause a breakdown. Afraid that I would get into child's pose and be unwilling to uncurl myself.

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I've always been strong and stoic -- able to compartmentalize my emotions. It's how people have defined me. And I've let them. Somewhere along the way, I associated being strong with turning off my emotions. So I've been afraid to practice my yoga -- because I know that I won't be able to keep my feelings shoved into that dark recesses that help keep me strong.

Today reality hit. As I was getting out of the bed, my neck was tight, my hips hurt, and I actually hobbled on my bad foot. You see acting strong isn't actually being strong. Avoiding my mat because I was afraid to feel my emotions for fear of being/looking weak was actually MAKING me weak -- doing physical harm.

In the Yoga Sutra 1.13 Patanjali tells us that the practice of "practice" is how we find the inner focus and stillness. By avoiding my mat (and refusing to surrender to my feelings) I'm failing to move closer to the inner stillness yoga brings.

So today I will step on my mat. I will not judge the emotions I feel. They are just emotions -- neither good or bad. I know there is tremendous strength in being vulnerable. Today I will embrace that strength. I will live in the moment, no regrets for the past no fear for the future. Today I will step on my mat.

So I challenge each of you. Step on your mat when you don't want to. Step on your mat when you are afraid. Step on your mat when you don't think you have the strength -- your mat will catch you if you surrender.

Love to you all -- Cathy

3:06 pm

Who is in Your Tribe?

indexWho Is In Your Tribe? Cathy shares her experience of finding her "tribe" and how it impacted her other relationships.

Social media can be such an ugly glimpse into the heart of people. Recently, a plus size model was featured on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit addition. It made news and it brought out the worst in some people on social media. Some of the comments made about the model were cruel -- and unnecessary. We see it time and time again about people's looks, their clothes, and their beliefs. It seems everybody has an opinion and they feel entitled to share it, especially if it tears another down.

I've been taking stock of my own participation in this behavior -- not on social media, my momma raised me smarter than that -- but with my own friendships. I've been quick to judge or gossip about people. Really what was the big deal in a quick gossip session -- who is it hurting? Well, it was hurting me, limiting the person I could be.

The past year, I've spend a lot of time on the mat and in a room with some great people. The self-reflection on my yoga mat helped me to realize that putting that negative energy of gossip and judgement out in the universe was not healthy for me. As they say often in yoga, "energy flows where attention goes" and my attention when gossiping and judging wasn't focused on a positive place.

Fortunately, during my yoga teacher training, I met my tribe. This group of individuals got to meet the real me and the amazing thing was that they liked that girl, flaws and all. This group of individuals supported me and believed in me when I wouldn't believe in myself. I will always remember the excitement in the room the first time I finally held crow pose. I swear these people were more excited than I was -- and I was pretty excited.

See that's the great thing about finding your tribe -- they want to lift you up not tear you down. These individuals showed me how to be a good friend -- a true friend. So now I examine my relationships that I had before I met my tribe. I ask myself who is supporting me and who is trying to tear me down? Maybe they just aren't as supportive as they should be, concerned with only their own issues. Maybe they are judging and gossiping about others all the time. Whatever the issue, if they aren't challenging me to be better, I question the friendship. My relationships have changed. I'm closer now to some people than I was before. I see less of other friends and that's probably not a bad thing. I'm still not a perfect friend, but I'm trying.

It's often said that "your vibe attracts your tribe." I challenge you to take stock of your tribe. Are they people who bring out the best in you? Do you bring out the best in them? If not, maybe it's time to examine your "vibe."

3:08 pm

A Friend Who is Always There

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Do you have a friend you that is always there for you? Katrina explains the importance of this friendship in her life.

I want to tell you about a good friend of mine. I can't call her my best friend because she often leaves me to my own devices when I need a crutch. Over the course of our relationship, she has let me go floundering through crisis after crisis reminding me of all the advice she has given me over the years saying, "Sister, I can't do it all. You have to pick up the slack on this one." Despite our setbacks and separations, she has remained constant in her love for me. She won't hesitate to tell me when I am misaligned  in my thoughts, actions, or words, but she won't go so far as to criticize me, because she accepts me just the way I am. The words she speaks to me in my darkest times are, "Darling, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Open your heart to the lessons."

I've had many friends like her over the years and I have always been so selfish with them, wanting all of their time just for me. I worried that I would be the one who was left behind or that I wouldn't get invited to the fun parties unless I was in a certain clique. She has many friends but she always has time for me. In fact, she has never declined a lunch date or even time to just sit with me in stillness. Don't get me wrong~ this chick can party! We have been upside down and all over the country (even the world) engaging in our crazy antics. She's always up for a good time, but she never overindulges. She prefers a life of balance.

Over the years, she has changed somewhat. Some of her friends have questioned her saying, "What happened to the real you? Why are you all over Facebook and Instagram showing off?" Other friends say, "I'm the only one that knows the real her, the quiet and conservative side. She's really not that flashy. She's way deeper than that." The fact of the matter is she's all of it. She has a solid foundation and she moves and breathes in a way that let's you know she's completely in tune with herself and her divine essence. At times, she moves like a cat coming to life after a long nap, and at others she's as still as a winter's night. Her name is Yoga.

Yoga has been the one friend that I have called upon when my searching for answers to life's questions has failed me. She has picked me up when I needed a hand and has looked me in the eye and held me accountable for my BS when I have gotten above my yoga raising. Yoga held up her end of our relationship when I wanted to bail, and I owe my deepest experiences of humility and gratitude to her. She has taught me to believe in myself in a kinder and more loving way, and to also love her just the way she is without labels or qualifiers. She's the real deal folks. My hope is that if you haven't met her, you will make it a point to do so. I promise~ she will make time for you and you won't be disappointed.

3:09 pm

Whose Life Are You Living?

Whose life are you living? Finding your path isn't always easy. Cathy shares her process of finding her dharma.

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and unless you are completely oblivious about your surroundings, you can't help but notice all the images of hearts and love everywhere. Apparently cupid ate one too many of those stupid chocolate hearts and has thrown up his little pink chunks of love all over the retail market. Needless to say, as a single girl, Valentine's Day has never been high ranking among my favorite holidays.

Valentine's Day has always enhanced my feelings of less than or unworthiness. A day made completely for couples, two halves who make a whole, soulmates who found each other. The goal by which so many measure themselves successful adults. I clearly had failed at this incredibly important task of life, a task I had spent my whole life chasing -- failing time and time again. Bummer.

Recently, I was working with a coach that suggested I wasn't following my dharma. Instead I was too busy trying to be normal to be true to my soul. Following my what? And what’s so bad about trying to be normal? So I researched the concept. Dharma comes from Buddhism and Hinduism and essentially means "the way things are." It is often used at the individual level to mean your mission or purpose. Unfortunately, this definition didn't really clarify my confusion. How did my inability to have a healthy relationship relate to following my purpose? What now?!? Yep, you guessed it, meditation and reflection.

That was 3 months ago, so the answers haven't come quickly, and I don't have all of them yet; however, I am starting to uncover some ideas. The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient yogic text, teaches us that it is better to live your own dharma imperfectly, than to live somebody else's dharma perfectly. Ouch.

I'm so busy trying to live society's definition of perfection that I'm missing my own life. I've been blessed with amazing family and friends who love me completely. Yet, I've taken these relationships for granted in search of what society told me I should want and have -- that elusive soul mate. However, in the quiet moments, my heart would whisper and I knew marriage and kids wasn’t the path I needed to take. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my soul. Instead I continued to judge my success by the goals of society instead of celebrating my achievements along my journey.

Living someone else's dharma is really not that unusual. There's a whole concept of "keeping up with the Jones" -- all about living somebody else’s dharma. RECOGNIZING that you are not living your dharma AND making a change is the hard part. But wow -- once you realize and let go of chasing a dream that isn't yours -- HUGE relief. I've started understanding my dharma and making changes to travel that path. And no, before you ask, I'm not going to tell you my dharma because it's mine. Go get your own! No seriously -- whose dharma are you living? Is your job your choice or your parents? Is your hobby yours or your friends? Is your religion yours or your families? Whose path are you on?

So how can you figure out if you are living your dharma? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1) What makes you feel passionate deep down in your heart?

2) What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning? Yes even you people who hate mornings!

3) When you look back at your best memories what were you doing?

Dig deep when you answer these questions. Were you providing care and support to someone? Were you making people laugh, solving problems, helping educate? Your dharma isn't superficial and your answers can't be either. Start seriously reflecting on what path your heart REALLY wants to be on.

Figuring out your dharma is NOT easy, but the work is worth the effort. Letting go of other people's dreams can mean hurting or disappointing others. (Sorry Mom and Dad, looks like all your grandchildren will have 4 legs and cold wet noses!) However, walking your own path can be immensely rewarding. Personally, I have a sense of peace and ease I never had before. I'm calmer and more patient with things that use to set off my anger. I'm also more open to experiences and opportunities than I've ever been. And perhaps most importantly, I'm accepting my relationship for exactly what it is in my life instead of the goal I measure my success - and wow that makes it so much easier. So bring on cupid! He doesn't bother me anymore. His dharma is not mine and I don't feel less for being me.

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3:10 pm

Lessons of a Broken Runner

What brings you to the mat? We all have something we get from yoga. Miranda shares her lessons learned as a broken runner.

I can remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was wandering around the small town of Wilmington with an immense amount of dread looming deep inside of me. I kept thinking to myself "who in their right mind agrees to run a marathon in the middle of the day?!" It was as though I had already made up my mind that this run would be terrible and funny enough, it kind of was. My hips ached from mile 10 all the way until the end, I didn't have my headphones, the course wasn't what I had expected, and to top it all off, I tripped at the 26 mile mark. At the time, I had no idea that would be my last run.

The days following the race were pretty normal. I gave my legs and body what I felt was an appropriate amount of time to heal. However, that first post-race run sadly ended in excruciating pain in my left knee. Fast forwarding a little bit. I took small breaks here and there but each run had the same outcome, this unfamiliar pain that I couldn't seem to shake. It's now been over three months since the race and I can honestly say, I still cannot run. TGFY--Thank Goodness for Yoga!!!

It's been a little over three years that I have integrated yoga regularly in my life. By no means am I anywhere near where I want to be, but I am precisely where I am supposed to be. I firmly believe this practice has helped me to deal with most situations in a much better way. Running gave me a sort of freedom that I have always craved in my life, and yoga, to me, gives the same opportunity but in a slightly different way. The moment I can start to feel the mat beneath my feet, it's as though my body has received permission to move in a way that creates energy, warms the heart, and brings meaning to my life. This whole "loss of running" experience has allowed me to explore my practice on the mat more consistently and with a deeper appreciation. The practice of yoga has encouraged me to take better care of my body by listening and understanding its many needs.

Before yoga, there were so many days where I didn't feel great, but pushed myself anyway because that's what you do, right? You push yourself constantly to be better, because you can always be better. But what if you just be? Be exactly what you are in that moment and that is absolutely enough? Maybe I could push through my knee pain just so I can be better but after almost 28 years, I have decided to take it a little bit easier on my body and do what feels, not only appropriate, but good. As I look to this body with understanding, patience, and gratitude, I have challenged myself to remember to love it fully, as well. Running was always a good way to keep in shape and without it consistently in my life, my body has changed in just three short months. I've had to remind myself every single day that change is neither bad nor good, just change. And by golly, change is not only okay, but inevitable and an opportunity to grow.

Yoga has opened up my mind to see the body as this amazing object that is capable of unbelievable things. And if that's not amazing enough in itself, it's YOUR true home. I have developed a much deeper appreciation regardless of the changes taking place or the reflection that I may see in the mirror. As strange as it tastes to be saying this, I am overly grateful for this experience and its miraculous timing. Yoga has had a remarkable effect on my life that I am so much more aware of now. How beautiful it is to be able to connect with yourself every day in a way you never knew was possible. My self-love and gratitude continues to grow on a daily basis despite whatever setbacks or downfalls I may be dealt. At this point in my life, as long as I have my body, my mat, and some quiet moments to myself every single day, then everything is exactly how it should be and I am doing just fine.

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.

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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.

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