In the ninth grade, I remember the first time I moved into a yoga pose. Pretending to be meditating, I closed my eyes, crossed my legs and brought my thumbs and middle fingers to touch. I was in the school cafeteria. I had no concept of yoga except this—and I was quickly reprimanded by my concerned christian friend—that Christians can't meditate. It is against God to do such a thing … And for many years, when I heard the words mediate and/or yoga, that was the experience that came to mind.
I love the benefits of living an active lifestyle. I am not a competitive person, but I find an incredible amount of joy in finding my edge. Most of the time. But, it's not always easy to stay motivated.
There have been seasons, where training for an event was just what I needed. There have also been seasons when training for an event or setting too many expectations and goals became more stressful then helpful.
Are you interested in starting out your Autumn with 14 days of consistent yoga practice? If so, we are here to help you to fit yoga into your daily life. Listed below are links to videos for each day.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.
We share 5 ways to help you stay committed to your goals and build better habits, whatever they are...
Even with only five minutes, I've included many options and variations. So whether you are a beginner or have been practicing yoga for a long time, this quick sequence you will teach you how to gain strength and balance to so you can press into a handstand without the help of a wall! There are no shortcuts to the things worth having. The same truth applies to handstands. To do them well, they take practice and consistency!
To view on of the essential videos that cover the pose, grab your yoga mat and click here.
Most of us listen with just 25% efficiency. Chances are that even when we are not speaking or on our smart phones, we are thinking about what we will say, rather then being present and truly listening to what is being said to us. This week we will dive into some practical ways to practice how to listen, love and lead well.
Whether we are talking about raising our children; who we work or volunteer with; and/or anyone of in our sphere of influence; are we the person that we want them to intimidate? Or are we still hoping someone else is going to rise to the challenge and take on the work of making a positive difference?
Active listening and being present is a lot of work. By nature, we think of ourselves first. So putting anyone before ourselves takes mindful effort—but so is anything worth having. So how do we make this a reality when we already feel pulled in so many directions?
Learning to listen well will make ours far richer then only focusing on ourselves. I think most of us want to listen, love and lead well. I also think we tend to give up when we allow ourselves the excuse that "we just aren't wired that way" or we are too busy today, maybe tomorrow...
I also know that somedays I fail at listening. I have went through the motions, but could not truthfully tell you how the people that matter most to me really are doing. Even if they tried to tell me! When those days are over, maybe I made it through a few more items on my to-do list, but I am far less content with how I spent my time. When this happens, it is always a reminder that my short term desires are not worth living my life for, but the people God allows me to get know and share life with are.
How about you? Do you have any other tips or practices that helps you listen well? I'd love to hear them if so.
Trail running… my first real introduction to meditation. The biggest difference being if you happen to follow a rabbit trail of thoughts—there is a really strong chance you will bite it and hit the ground.
I can’t even remember why I wanted to start running trails. However, I will never forget the miles of running on jagged rock and mud—and aide stations that have Nutella pita sandwiches and M&Ms—and the necessary focus to what was in front of your feet.
If you have been practicing yoga for very long, you may have heard a yoga teacher say, "if you practice Ujjayi breathing..."
So, what exactly is Ujjayi (oo-jy [rhymes with "pie"]-ee) breathing? Is it helpful, or just weird??
Before we dive in, two things you should know about me. I believe in creation science, the more I learn (and the longer I live); the more I do not believe evolution could be more then an idea. Maybe we will move on to that topic on another day ... But for now, the first thing you need to know about me is that I believe that God created the earth, plants, animals, fish, birds and people - in six days. Second, I do believe that we are not to live blindly. So, if I am going to teach asana (the postures of yoga), then I need to be able to discern and educate others in regards to what ideas align with my faith in Christ, and what does not. Hence, this very long post.
I've been a mom for almost seventeen years now. A few things I've learned about myself along this part of my journey.
I first learned I wasn't very patient, I have practiced patience, prayed for patience, gained some patience —and can still lose patience when television and electronics are essentials and cleaning up after one self is not.
This month Pose to focus on is Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose).
This pose is used many times in most yoga classes. It is often called a resting pose, but in all honesty, it is not a resting pose. You are working to create length through your arms, spine and legs in this pose. So, I consider it more of a re-set pose. As you continue your yoga practice, this pose creates the opportunity to check in with how your body is feeling and time to reconnect with your breath. Maybe you will notice where you feel tension within your body, or feel extra strong… Below we will cover the foundation and key actions of the pose. To view on of the essential videos that cover the pose, grab your yoga mat and click here.
"Show up. Hold space. Do the work. Abandon perfection.
Flirt with your curiosity.
And for the love of the process, keep coming back..."
A Yogi quote from Lululemon
Showing up and holding space is not the same as showing up, checking it off of the to-do list, and moving on to the next item. What's the difference?
When a yoga class is coming to a conclusion, the teacher typically closes class with the term, "Namaste." Because the word is Sanskrit, and many of us have only heard it mentioned in a yoga class, and typically is offered of the bowing of ones head, it throws people. What am I bowing to exactly, or why am I saying the word Namaste?
Whenever starting something new in life, from yoga to a new job, it is easy to become frustrated with how hard or slow the process seems to move. In Jon Acuff's book, START: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters, he talks about what it takes to become someone who is exceptional at their craft—10,000 practice hours is a part of the magic equation. That is a lot of time.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
This scripture that is often used for a lot of card signing and big event celebrations to encourage church-goers. What does it mean?
I spent the first month of 2016 in NYC for Yoga Works Teacher Training.
During Yoga Works Teacher Training (YWTT) we spent many hours reading and discussing the yoga Sutras. Many of them have similaries to scripture from the Bible, many do not. Some I think of as mindful words to help me grow in my journey with Christ, some I have just chosen to ponder, pray about, and work out what Patanjali was searching for.
God's Words are never to be added to or subtracted from. However, His Words are able to guide us in the truth when we are in need of discernment. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper then any double-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
Never be afraid to think. God have us our minds for a reason - our mind is to use! I think for so long, the typical christian has left the hard questions to clergy, and instead of truly seeking God for wisdom when hard topics and questions arise, they just turn to their leadership. It reminds me of the Israelite's and their relationship with Moses and God. God was right there, at their camp, and aside from Moses, Joshua, was the only human that was willing to go near His tent of meeting. They didn't want to trouble themselves with the matters of God. Follow His rules, but not let Him change their hearts seemed to be their motto. With that in mind...
Sutra 2.18 is one of those 'ponder and pray about' Sutras.
2.18. The seen is of the nature of the gunas: illumination, activity, and inertia. It consists of the elements and sense organs, whose purpose is to provide both experiences and liberation to the Purusha.
If you are new to the Sutras, some definitions for you:
the seen: Nature or Prakriti (active consciousness, fundamental category of nature)
gunas: one of the three qualities of nature that provide experience to liberate the Purusha
Purusha: the divine self which is placed in all beings...
This sutra is attempting to answer the question of "why are we here?" The answer being, that everything thing that happens holds a purpose to teach and correct our thinking, in order for the Purusha (our consciousness) to find its divine and true self.
I have two shorts stories. The first is from Inside the Yoga Sutras, written by Reverend Jaganath Carrera.
"Nature teaches us by exposing its limitations. In this sense, Nature is like a playpen which limits the movement of the child while he plays with his toys. Sooner or later the child tires of the toys and the restriction of the playpen. He turns to the only one who can help—the one who put him there in the first place—his mama. He cries out loud, and the mama drops whatever she is doing and rushes to the side of her baby.
Likewise, the transitory nature of worldly pleasures becomes tiresome sooner or later. Another way we can learn form Nature is that God* cannot help but leave "fingerprints" all over creation. Every aspect of Nature reveals a bit of the Creator's presence to a mind with a receptive contemplative disposition. From observation of Nature we an find examples of qualities such as strength, patience, caring, selflessness, order, and perseverance that eloquently speak to the existence of a Divine Intelligence.
All of Nature is at our service; ready, wiling and able to teach us the way to liberation." (p. 123)
The second story is one of my own.
Last summer, I needed help in the garden and with my blackberry vines. There were many weeds that needed to be pulled, and dead vines needed to be removed, and I had the help of my son (who was 14 at the time). The earth was hard, so I knew the vines would be the easier of the two jobs, so I taught him how to find and trim the dead vines and weeds away from the healthy vines. After making sure he had learned the difference, I then I left him to work. And I headed to the garden to dig up the weeds. After a while he came to me, and had accidentally cut some of the healthy vine. By time he was finished, over half of our berries had been cut away and were lying on the ground, never to make it to our table to enjoy. He felt terrible about cutting the healthy vines, and so did I. We had a mom-son discussion about paying attention, working slowly to make sure you only remove the dead; and I practiced patience and headed back to the garden full of weeds.
All summer I would think about the lost berries, and how we obviously needed to learn
more about living with patience. Until I read the lines about the child in the playpen...
I should have given him the garden to tend to. I intentionally gave him the easier of the two jobs. It did not need to be a lesson about patience. It had the potential to be a practice in perseverance for him, and a crop full of berries for our family. But, I was like the mama who grabbed the crying baby out of the playpen.
God—the one and only omniscient God—created us, loves us and has a plan for each of us. He also gives us all the choice to follow Him, or not. To make wise and hard choices, or take short cuts and the easy way out. God loves us so much that there are times, He will wait for us to quit crying, and seek Him, out of desire, rather then out of our selfishness. Maybe people think that He must be too busy helping someone else, or He doesn't think we deserve to be helped... that is not the truth. From before time, as we understand it, began. He already had His plan in place. When He sent Jesus to earth, to live as an example of how we should live in this world, and to take our sins and die for them—that was part of His plan. He already took care of our deepest need-to be united with Him.
Lesson 1: Sometimes, we can read, study and live from only our own perspective. When we do this, we can miss out on what God desires us to learn. Our perspective if human sized, not God sized. We must be seeking out His truth with the desire to know Him, not from the need of personal justification and/or encouragement.
Lesson 2: In Romans 1:20 (ESV)"For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Creation was created by God, to point humans to Him. The second half of the story over Sutra 2.18 is partially correct in teaching that nature is here to help teach us about God and ourselves. However, the truth to keep in mind is that God has placed eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The divine self that Patanjali teaches is that we will find our self-realization: god within ourselves. If we accept Christ into our lives, then we have the Holy Spirit living within us, but that does not make us God. Becoming a follower of Christ gives us freedom to live a new life, with freedom and adoption into His family, but does not make us gods.
Life application: To learn, I often need to just get out of the way and pay attention to what is going on around me. God has me (and you) here for a specific and beautiful purpose. When I am caught up in living life my way—even if it includes Bible study and time praying—if I am only living from my vantage point—then I may be missing what freedom in Christ really looks like. (Galatians 5)
*The Sutras were written in Sanskrit, it is likely that the writer's beliefs were similar to Hinduism and believed that the universe is identical to divinity (the Creator is the mind or soul of the universe). Not the same as the God's Word. The Bible teaches that God is omnipresent. God's presence is everywhere—He created the universe—He isn't the universe.
The original sharing of this story was during our closing ceremony at YWTT in NYC - January of this year. Photos taken from previous summers.