Change

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”– Lao Tzu

Life can change in an instant…. One minute your waltzing through life and the next Bam! something happens and things change. Maybe its a big change, a traumatic change, a death of someone close to you or an injury that will take your life in another direction. In my case it’s been an unexpected illness. So no real trauma, but definitely unexpected. I spent 3 days in the hospital and took almost 3 weeks off from work.

I never take off work.

I rarely cancel classes and clients, as a self employed person taking off from work means money out of my pocket. So it had better be a big deal that keeps away from The Centre.

But heres the thing about change it is inevitable. There will always be changes, little changes and big changes and often we dont have a choice about some of the changes that come our way, but how we handle change is a choice. 

I learned a few things as I recovered over the last few weeks, big things and little things.

I learned that Yes I can just sit here on the couch. Oh but my monkey brain really wanted to ‘get things done’ the body on the other hand needed rest and lots of it. So I listened to what the body needed and I complied. I learned that I can be patient. Patience is not my strong suit, but I learned I do have some if I dig deeply enough.

I learned that food isn’t always a comfort. Yea I said it..! Food is not always what the body needs. I had a very difficult time putting anything, and I mean anything on my stomach. Even just little sips of water could make me nauseous. I pretty much just ate what I lovingly referred to as the maternity diet. Soda crackers and Sprite, with the occasional apple sauce thrown in. So maybe I will use this time to reassess my diet, clean it up a bit. Less fatty foods and more fruit and veggies. So maybe positive changes can come from the unexpected changes too.

 The biggest thing I learned though was about me and my relationship to breath…. 

Breathing is my happy place. Pranayama, breathing practices, are at the heart of my personal yoga practice and at the heart of my teaching. But this illness changed my breathing. I found it difficult to take a full breath, and deep breathing was out of the question. Simple little breaths were all I could managed. I sat in the hospital bed and practiced Sama Vritti. Balanced breathing with a deep mindfulness on relaxing….. well, everything. I am only just now getting to a place where my breathing practices are getting back to ‘normal’. But my awareness and my intention well that has changed.

I have had many students and clients over the years that found ‘breath work’ to be challenging and I have always (at least I hope I did)  approached their concerns with compassion and taught them from that place. But I have to admit that I have practiced Pranayama for so very long that for many years I couldn’t truly relate. I didn’t remember what it was like to not be able to breath deeply, efficiently and with a richness that breath awareness brings. I think I have a better understanding now of how difficult changing your breath must be for those new to yoga.

And the most important thing I think I learned is not to take your good health for granted and if you don’t have ‘good health’ you should try to get some. It’s never too late to start. Find a health coach, a trainer or yoga therapist who can help you. Changes in our health are probably one of the hardest things we do in life. But I give all the credit to my speedy recovery to being in pretty good health to begin with and that credit goes to yoga and to what I call being Wellness Aware and to a consistent movement based practice and to pranayama and meditation.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” - Wayne Dyer

There is a lot of good advice out there to help you deal with life changes, 

*Know that Change Is Inevitable. …

*Separate Your Feelings from Your Reaction. …

*Practice Mindfulness. …

But for me the simplest  way to accept change that is hard to handle is to try to look at it from a different perspective. Look for something that might be a good outcome from the change. I know, I know…. Looking at something thats well, crappy, in a different way is hard. Who out there remembers the movie Pollyanna? Yea the old Disney version. In the story Pollyanna played a game called the glad game and no matter how disappointed or sad she was she always looked for something to be glad about. She looked for the light. She looked for a something in a bad situation that she could be glad about.

Well folks I am a card carrying Pollyanna. My ex-husband & my oldest son used to call me “Pollyanna” like it was a bad thing. An insult. But its not. Seeing the good in a bad situation makes you resilient, it does not make you an ostrich with its head in the sand. Being able to look ahead and see that this new road maybe taking you in a good or better direction comes from a place of strength. It take courage to look at your current situation, this new normal, and think ‘I can make something good come of it’. And personally I think that makes you more of a realist. Always being fearful of change or resisting it causes pain and keeps you stuck in a present moment that is meant to become a past moment. A memory. 

So remember that change is essential to life, if we always resist changes that life brings, we would never begin new relationships, make new friends and meet new lovers. We wouldn’t take that job we always wanted. We might never go to the new yoga class we heard about…..  Learn to at least welcome change and to meet it somewhere safe, but outside your comfort zone.

Life is all about change and begin open to what comes next. Learn to stay focused on the positives in life. 

Embrace your inner Pollyanna!

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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Viparita Karani

Hello loves can you believe its august 2!…. Just yesterday someone said to me “can you believe summer is almost over” My first thought was ‘well we live in the South so summer doesn’t end until Oct’ but my second thought was where did Spring go, let alone Summer! Times is flying by and the seasons change so quickly it’s hard to keep up.

Changes come and go but we will always have yoga, right? No matter the season, the month or the year. We have yoga.

It doesn’t matter if we are sick or feeling fit as a fiddle (how fit is a fiddle reallllly?). We have yoga.

Whatever life changes we are dealing with we have our yoga practice to help us navigate those sometimes-turbulent waters. Maybe you don’t have a regular, everyday practice, maybe you try to squeeze a few (or one ) class a week in but we never seem to develop a home practice. We think that yoga at home should look like, feel like and be like that 75 min practice you take at my center or a studio or gym. But you don’t know how to do that full practice at home..… You try.

You roll your mat out, you put the pets in the other room, you wait for the kids to fall asleep and the spouse to be watching their favorite show. And then you stand there, on the mat….. And think now what? You do a few down dogs, even though you hate them in class, but for some reason it’s the one pose you can remember… Oh there is plank, you know that one too, you also hate it too but you do a few of them. Then you remember the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the washer and you roll up the mat and think I’ll try again late.

Look you have enough stress in your life, instead of making yoga a big production or stressing over poses you can’t remember, just do one pose…. Yea, ONE POSE.

That’s all. And that one pose is Viparita Karani, Legs up the Wall pose.

We posted a little article on my Face book page about legs up the wall and it generated more buzz than most posts do so I thought I’d add some tips for you here. I had questions like ‘how long I should stay in the pose and how often can I do it’… And ‘I have tried it but my back doesn’t like it, how do I make it more comfortable.’

But first the basics.

Sit on the floor with your left side next to the wall and your feet on the floor. Using your hands for support, shift your weight and lower your right shoulder to the ground so that you can pivot your pelvis and sweep your legs up the wall as you lay down.

Lay back & let the arms relax at your side…..

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Legs up the wall

For more comfort, place a blanket in a single fold (about 1 in thick) next to the wall. When you lay back it should be under your hips and low back but allow the shoulders to drape back.

For more height under the hips, (this makes it more like a full inversion)…. To begin, fold a thick blanket lengthwise and lay it next to the wall. It should be around six inches thick, about 10 inches wide, and long enough to prop up your hips in their entirety. (A yoga bolster works well too.) Place the blanket near a wall with the long edge running parallel to the baseboard, leaving a gap of just a few inches between the support and the wall. And then sit on the blanket, with the hip next to the wall and carefully roll back onto your shoulders as your legs go up. You have to decide how much is too much height. If it is uncomfortable for your back remove the extra height.

leg up 2

If your hamstrings are tight, scoot back from the wall a few inches and roll another blanket up and put it between the knees and the wall. Be careful not to be too far from the wall as you run the risk of hyper-extending the knees.

A few other tips to make this more comfortable, is to wear warm comfy socks, your feet will get cold. And drape a blanket across your body so you don’t get chilled. An eye pillow is a nice touch, but if you don’t have one take a hand towel and cover your eyes.

Stay in Legs up the Wall for as long as you are comfortable.
Start with about 5 mins and work up from there. I have been know to stay for up to 30 minutes.

The benefits of this pose are almost endless. I read some where many years ago that, Krishnamacharya the father of modern yoga, said that this pose was the most important for good health. All inversions are good for us, but not all of us should do the more strenuous versions such as head stand or shoulder stand. Viparita Karani is a wonderful pose for triggering the Relaxation response in the body. It is a deeply relaxing pose.  Just a few of the other benefits are:

  • Facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation
  • Eases menstrual cramps
  • Relieves swollen ankles and varicose veins
  • Restores tired feet or legs
  • Stretches the back of the neck and back of the legs
  • Provides migraine and headache relief,
  • Calms anxiety

So stop making ‘yoga at home’ so difficult, just do this one pose. Try it for a few minutes a day and let me know how you feel.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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More off the mat chat

I’ve been talking about the concept of taking Yoga off the mat. I want to delve a bit deeper into that concept. Yoga has the reputation, certainly in the West, of being ‘only’ a fitness regime, a physical health program. And that’s part of it for sure, but at some point you realize that yoga is something else. Your practice then becomes so much more. And that’s when the real struggle begins, because you start to question things in your life. And that can make the people in your life uncomfortable. It can make you uncomfortable.

Odds are when you first come to yoga, whether through a studio or a gym class or even online it was through the lens of the physical practice, the asana practice, and so for many that’s all yoga is, only a bunch of postural exercises.

But after a while yoga begins to take on a different meaning, you start to recognize something in your practice that you can’t quite put into words.

I tell my students all the time that yoga will slowly worm it’s way into your life, it will start to move you in ways you hadn’t expected. Slowly and over time your yoga practice becomes your own…. Not your teachers practice, not your friends but your practice. Even if it looks similar on the outside, on the inside it’s unique. It’s intimate and subtle and you find yourself looking at the rest of your life through that now intimate and subtle lens.

You may change behaviors in your life, like drinking less or eating differently. You may stop smoking or maybe you start going to the gym or the park to exercise. You may stop participating in conversations with friends that marginalize other groups outside your own. Your prayer or devotion time might now start with an asana practice. You start to find the subtleties of yoga in the way you wash the dishes, in the way you actually listen to someone when they talk. You may also look at yourself differently. You may see your beauty, where before you saw only flaws. You may start realizing your strength is in the very same places that others had only seen weakness.

Yoga off the mat is an ambiguous phrase but the truth is yoga will change you and you will reflect that change in your life. As your practice grows so will you, you will blossom and flower into a new, better version of yourself.

For me Yoga is the basis of my life, it is the foundation of who I am and every single day yoga reminds me of where I come from and how I can continue to move forward. If I never get on the mat again, if for some reason I never do the movement practice again, yoga will still be an integral part of my life. It is how I breathe, it is how I move, it is how I face the challenges of life, and it is the foundation for my relationships, my relationship with my students, with my friends, my family and with God. Yoga isn’t about perfection it’s about reaching deeply into myself so that I can then reach higher and find the better parts of me.

Yoga is my spiritual practice.

Yoga doesn’t take away the responsibility of our daily existence, yoga doesn’t teach us to run away but instead to be grounded and rooted in the experience of life so that we can see the beauty in our daily lives.

Om shanti

Cheryl

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