the llama blog
practicing yoga off the mat.
My meditation practice ebbs and flows. I wish I could say I sit in silence for a several minutes every day. But I don’t. Not always. But sometimes.
I started meditation when I began my journey as a yoga teacher eight years ago. Our teacher taught us various ways to meditate and asked us to choose the path that spoke loudest to us. I’ve tried japa, mantra, guided, breath-centered and other styles of meditation. And to be honest, they all work. They all create a focal point to which the mind can settle and ultimately, relax.
I recall sitting for 30 minutes or more each morning practicing these different meditation methods. The more I practiced, the easier and quicker it became to settle my mind. I was aware of my breath and my thoughts throughout the day. I was calm and focused.
And then my life changed. I, like many people, started a family. My young children’s needs took over my own needs. I was too tired to meditate. I couldn’t sit still because my mind wandered too much. That’s when my physical yoga practice (asana) stepped in. It became my daily movement meditation. It wasn’t as rejuvenating as a 30-minute meditation practice, but I felt more centered when I finished.
As my children have grown, I have tried several times to recommit to a meditation practice only to fail in my mind when I cannot sit every day. I put a lot of pressure on myself as I’m sure many of you do.
My theme for 2019 is FREEDOM. I have decided that a daily meditation practice sounds wonderful, and is awesome if one can do it, but I will not judge myself less because I can only meditate once a week. I give myself freedom to rewrite what this spiritual practice really means, and be happy for what I can accomplish.
Are you similar and place this hidden pressure on yourself? Join me, and be free. Free to be open-minded, and joyful for the quiet moments whenever they happen.
In the fall, I planted over 75 different types of tulips and daffodil bulbs. I tucked these bulbs into the dark fertilized soil and covered them with an extra layer of hay to stay warm during the long, cold winter ahead. These bulbs have been storing up nutrients and energy. They have been preparing for a journey that they do not even know.
As spring begins and the temperature rises, these bulbs will begin to crack open and grow towards the surface. Out of darkness and into the light, they show courage and faith in a process they are not yet sure of. I’m not sure a tulip knows it will become a tulip and a daffodil a daffodil, but both know their journey begins from a single bulb and doesn’t end until they reach the sky.
The kind of faith amazes me. There is no fear. There is no holding back. Seeds show us how bravely we can live our own lives even when the path is unseen. While our sad heart could never imagine being in love again or our mind feeling at peace, the path is there. We can boldly step into the path and allow the sun to light the way.
What is budding to the surface in your life? Blossom with courage and love.
Writer and poet Rumi said, “you are not a drop in the ocean. You are an entire ocean in a drop.” Often, we feel as though we are so different from another person, but as Rumi stated, we are all interconnected. We are all related and share more experiences than we realize. Beginning with love helps us connect to others in a way talk will never reach.
Loving others, especially the difficult ones that don’t seem to agree with our views, is not an easy task. Bob Goff, author of Everybody Always, encourages us open our hearts and love freely with everyone. He offers several ways we can reconnect to others.
One of his first lessons is understanding other people do not wish to be “talked” too. They don’t need to hear your advice on everything they should be doing. They simply want to be seen and heard. They want to be with you. Be their friend and listen with your whole heart and let it speak rather than your lips.
When a friend is dealing with a struggle such as a family or job loss, most of us rush to help initially. Over time, we disappear and so does the support system this friend still needs. She may fall again, lose another job or forget how to love, and that’s when Goff says we really need to be there – to help, to hold, to love.
Are you scared to love? To open up fully? What could happen? We could get hurt. We could get rejected. But what happens if we love fully, and we change not only ourselves, but the ones that come in contact with us.
The people that come into and out of our lives are teachers even the ones we are loving and helping. Take the time to listen and learn from them. Their knowledge is a gift we’ve likely asked for.
Cheers to 2019 – a new year, a blank canvas, 365 days to write your own story. I simply love New Year’s and the feeling of starting fresh and new. It’s a chance to set resolutions and make amends. It’s a time to let go and move forward.
Like many people who set a resolution or goal, I tend to set too many goals which many go unfulfilled. A few years ago, I stopped setting resolutions but instead themed my year around a word or phrase. Last year, I chose the word thrive. I learned that in order to thrive, I needed to be more present in my daily life no matter how difficult the day may be.
I found that setting intentions rather than goals helped me succeed. Phillip Moffitt said goals focus on a future outcome, while setting an intention is “a path or practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment.” Instead of setting a large goal of meditating 30 minutes a day, I chose to start with noticing. Noticing how I feel when I need a life preserver. Noticing my thoughts and reactions without any judgement.
I continued to add more intentions such as slowing down, listening with my heart and using all of my senses. These intentions became a way of life for me. They are now part of my personality. Intentions change how you interpret what comes into your mind. When my days seem full of frustration, I can still see the sun peeking from behind the clouds.
What word or phrase will you chose for 2019? Enjoy your days even more with intentions.
Days grow colder and darker in December. The lighting of a fire fills a room not only with light, but also with its warmth and coziness. I enjoy watching the flames flicker and dance as if they were performing a ballet. The whole house takes on a new personality when the candles are lit and the fireplace is on.
There are many things I enjoy about winter including the coziness of a warm home. However, I’m a Florida girl deep down, and I long for sunshine and heat. Winters are hard for me. There’s less light and outside play time. Dressing in heavy layers just to take the trash out wears me down. Winter requires new skills and acceptance from me.
I’m not alone in dealing with winter. Other people feel this way, and this symptom even has a diagnosis – seasonal defective disorder. Some of us get depressed when there’s less light and less interaction with other people during the winter season. We may feel more tired and moody. I’m on the low spectrum not needing medical assistance. And if you are the same, here are some tips in bringing more light and joy this winter.(**I am not a doctor, and encourage anyone with long-lasting depression to seek medical attention.)
I’d love to hear how you enjoy winter. Please feel free to share here or on Facebook.
At least once a month, I share a lunch with friends. As mothers, we have to schedule this date a month in advance, but that one meal is our opportunity to share stories and laugh with each other. Sure, we see each other often and text constantly, but that lunch is a moment where we put down our electronics and really listen to each other without any distractions.
Listening to another person shows respect and gratitude. It says their words matter. We can show appreciation to anyone just by listening, listening deeply and whole-heartedly. The next time you share a conversation with someone - a friend, your mom, a co-worker, the barista - don’t think about what you’ll say next. Just listen. Notice them and the feelings behind their words. See them. Hear them.
Deep listening is an exercise, and the more you practice, the easier it becomes. As we all try to be seen and heard, take the time to give this small token of gratitude to another. Thank you to my students who share their weekly stories with me, and who, in turn, listen to mine.
Oprah Winfrey said “everyone can use their life as a class.” Our best-selling life story is filled with lessons. We use these stories to empathize with friends going through a tough time. We teach values to our children through our stories. Our stories are important, but they can hinder our progression.
Think about your life story. What obstacles did you have to overcome to arrive where you are today? Staying up late to study for a college exam, working extra hours for a promotion, leaving an unhealthy relationship or waking up to discover you have a deeper purpose in life are just a few examples. These are some of the most important chapters in our life.
Each time we tell our story it sheds more insight and knowledge. When my daughter complains that a friend doesn’t want to play with her, I recall a similar moment between a childhood friend and me. She and I argued over what we wanted to play. Because we both thought we were right, we ended up mad, and walking home alone sulking in our separate bedrooms. In my youth, this incident made me both angry and sad. Then, as I told the story in my 20’s, I saw how immature and selfish I was to her feelings. Now, as I tell this story as a parent, I notice I did feel compassion and love for my friend even in that moment, but I lacked the skills to access the emotions. This tale unfolded into a teachable moment.
Retelling our stories is healing, but living in past stories is not. Do you find it’s hard to close one chapter and move to another? Many of us want to completely erase or forget a portion of our story. That again, is unhealthy. Ripping pages out of our book tears away a piece of us. Learning to allow this story to remain in our past not our present is part of our foundation. It is how we got to the amazing place we are today. And yes, being here today is amazing.
Like a good summer read, feel free to thumb through previous chapters and awaken to a new perspective. Use this new light to lift and support the story we are writing today.
When I ask students, what do they want to get out of yoga, I hear one answer more often – relaxation. This response is so common that even Yoga Journalmagazine themed their August issue about it.
Why do so many of us need to chill out? The typical lifestyle for Westerners is go, go, go. We fill out to-do lists. We plan every minute of our days and our children’s days. Our work environment also compliments this busyness with meetings, emails and constant phone calls. And when we do have down time, we choose to fill it with television or scrolling our Instagram page.
I was taught from a young age that if I wasn’t working, I appeared lazy. I worked late hours at my first job after college in hopes to promote. When smart phones arrived, I connected myself to it nonstop just in case my boss needed something at 9pm. This busyness transferred into my current responsibility of caring for my children and home. I have to-do lists. I clean all the time. I tutor and play games. But the difference now is I utilize my yoga tools, and find more peace in my days.
Some perceive yoga as permission to relax. The physical poses stress and release tension in the tissues and muscles creating a physical relaxation in the body. The breath helps slow the mind to focus on the present moment and current state of the body. And finally, when we lie down in Savasana, our mind and parasympathetic nervous system gets a chance to reset lowering our blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels. To sum up, it is reasonable to see why one would choose a yoga class for relaxation.
Together, the yoga tools, breath, mind and body, unite for that tranquil feeling every one associates with a yoga class. However, a yoga class isn’t the only place we can experience this feeling. We can incorporate all of these tools into our everyday lives. We can find time to move during the day. We can become aware of our breath and our thoughts throughout the day. We can use our breath to give us time before we respond. What we practice on the mat becomes our practice in our daily lives.
Give yourself permission to relax today.
Where you place your attention grows. This concept has popped up in many different books, emails and meditations I’ve read this summer. It’s as if the universe is holding up a sign to me, and saying “please stop being so negative to yourself.”
Blame it on the summer heat, or my learned behaviors from my childhood, when challenges get tough, I doubt myself. I second guess. Then I start saying negative things like “I’m no good at this,” “I wish I were more patient.” I’m sure you have felt this way once or twice in your life.
After reading Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, Wishes Fulfilled, I started changing the statements I say to myself. Instead of saying, “I wish I was more compassionate so I could be more patient with my children,” I now say, “I am compassionate.” And you know what, it works. I stand a little softer and find myself smiling more as though I were filled with compassion.
I’ve outlined Dr. Dyer’s path to fulfilling your wishes, but I do encourage you to pick up his book.
Positive thinking can alter your path. Begin with these two little words, “I am.”
Summer is in full swing, and so is vacation season. It’s a perfect time to slow down and sip iced tea while watching the sun fade into the horizon. But what happens to your yoga practice when you’re away?
Vacations and yoga are similar in their ability to evoke deep relaxation. Both encourage us to slow down and pay attention to the present moment whether that’s on a yoga mat or licking peach ice cream before it drips on your hands. Slowing down rejuvenates the mind and the body.
Yoga is a way of life. We practice poses and breathwork on the mat, but the real challenge is utilizing this knowledge off the mat and in your daily life. In a Sun Salutation sequence, we connect our breath to each pose as we move. It teaches us to lead with our breath not our mind. Taking a deep breath gives you time and space before reacting based on stressed emotions.
Here are a few times on integrating yoga during vacation time:
Yoga is more than its physical appearance. Our bodies may move and sway into various shapes, but the real magic is happening on the inside. We are creating ways to be more in touch with ourselves and those around us.
Now go and make some summer memories.