Downward-Facing Dad

Yesterday I invited my dad to come to a yoga class with me today, and his answer: “yes!” I was so excited because I know how much courage it takes to go to a first yoga class, and I was able to have a Friday yoga/lunch date with my dad. Going to your first yoga class can be intimidating. No, I take that back, it is without a doubt incredibly intimidating. I remember my first yoga class. I had just moved out to California, (where it seems that virtually everyone is stylin’ and fit) and my college roommate invited me to go with her. I had no idea what any of the words meant that the teacher was saying, let alone I barely knew the meaning of “downward-facing dog.” I was using a borrowed yoga mat and I didn’t know if I was wearing the “right” clothing. It seemed that everyone else in the class had the malleability of a pipe cleaner and they seemed to flow from pose to pose with such perfection while I was a wobbly wooden board. I couldn’t help but think what the rest of them were thinking of me. Over time, however, I learned that the other people in the class didn’t give a rat’s ass about what I was doing or how I looked, because they were on their own yoga journey, while at that moment I was solely concerned about my destination (or lack thereof).

The theme in today’s class was the yogic law of effortlessness and living each pose as a journey instead of a destination. Just wanna give a shout out to my daddy for his courage to try something new and to live each pose and each moment in his life as a journey!

You Don’t Have to Do Yoga to Be a Yogi

I found the following in an article from mindbodygreen.com: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4688/Youre-a-Yogi-If.html. Turns out you may be a yogi and not even realize it!
You’re a yogi if…
  • You’ve taken a few deep breaths, and felt noticeably better afterwards
  • You’ve appreciated something beautiful just for its own sake
  • You’ve felt grateful for some aspect of your life, and it brought a smile to your face
  • You’ve physically connected with another person, and during that time lost your sense of self
  • You’ve done a good deed and completely forgot to expect acknowledgement or reward
  • You’ve hugged an animal for at least 5 seconds
  • You’ve gotten mad at or been hurt by someone, but now you’re ok with the incident
  • You’ve experienced a period of ‘flow’ at work, and lost track of the time
  • You’ve been challenged by a person or a situation, and upon reflection, you feel thankful
  • You’ve listened to an amazing song, and totally lost it

Be Here, Be Now: Not There, Not Then

The past and the future can evoke various positive and negative emotions: excitement, joy, anxiety, guilt, sadness, anger, etc. Living in the present moment is a concept that’s been showing up a lot lately in my life. I heard about it all the time when I first started doing yoga, but never really truly knew what it meant. As human beings, it is inevitable that our mind will drift–we are excited for the weekend or we reminisce about something in the past, even if it was the recent past like something that happened yesterday or this morning. It is important to remember the past, but be careful that when you’re remembering it, you’re not living in it. When you live in the past or the future, you are blind to the potential beauty that surrounds you, even if you are not where you necessarily want to be, such as the workplace. Being present to your life in this moment might even take any physical or emotional pain you are feeling because you’re completely engulfed in the “now” and not the “then.”

I am so appreciative of having the ability and lifestyle that allows me to practice yoga because it helps me with the difficult process of living in the “now” both during practice and in my day-to-day life. I am also appreciative of it because sometimes I get the opportunity to spend it with my beautiful aunt ;) I used to spend almost my entire yoga practice looking forward to the final pose of relaxation, savasana, but ironically I was missing the whole point of yoga–being in the now. Sometimes I’ll catch myself being mad at the yoga instructor for making us do yet ANOTHER crescent moon or yet ANOTHER 4 more sets of “wheel.” I’ll think, “Really? Isn’t it time for frickin’ savasana now?! (If you’re reading this you know who you are!) But really, I come to find that being present to that pain and that fatigue actually takes it away and WHO KNEW?!–I can actually enjoy those poses even while my muscles are shaking with weakness and I’ve been sweating out nearly half my water weight for the past 55 minutes. Anticipation can bring up a lot of positive and negative emotions, but don’t forget about the life you’re missing out on right here and right now–after all, that is where your life is.

Try this (It takes 32 seconds): Wherever you are, close your eyes (obviously not now because you want to read the rest), sit up straight, and inhale 4 counts of breath, then exhale 4 counts. Then, inhale 6 counts, exhale 6 counts. Then, inhale 8 counts, exhale 8 counts…

Focusing on just your breathing helps you stay present, so maybe, just maybe, you experienced a teensy bit of that present moment. But don’t get too excited about that past moment! You can always do it again, right now…

On “shoulding” all over yourself: It’s gross

Lately I have been more aware of how much I “should” on myself and “should” on others. We have ideas about how we “should” behave or what we “should” do in a certain type of situation, as well as make judgments about what other people “should” do. But let me ask you something: Where does that get you? Has it ever caused you fulfillment? For me it hasn’t. Let me give you an example. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost two years now and a lot of times I’ll catch a voice in the back of my head saying, “Geez Megan you should be able to do tripod headstand by now.” By telling myself I “should” do something it keeps me in a state of powerlessness and I dwell on something that does not exist, which steals away time from experiencing the beauty of the present moment. So I tell that voice, “Thank you for sharing, I’m going to continue with where I’m at in my yoga practice right now.” Sometimes that voice will come back a little softer and say, “Ok practice in the present moment so that one day you will be able to do tripod headstand.” Again, “one day” is not HERE RIGHT NOW so let it go. I find that accepting myself with where I am at gives me power, even though my ego may be a little hurt.

Another example. I grew up with music, mainly piano and singing, but I’ve also picked up a little bit of guitar. Whenever I go to a concert I’ll see the musicians up there and I’ll catch that voice again: “Geez Megan, you’ve been exposed to music your whole life. And why aren’t you doing anything about it? Shouldn’t you be up there?” Then comes the dwelling and the envy of others and all the other nastiness that results from “shoulding” all over myself. Because I’m shoulding all over myself I don’t get to fully enjoy the music that I came to listen to. Guess what voice?  Thank you for sharing, I’m going to enjoy the music now.

I’d love to hear any of your experiences about what happens when you “should” all over yourself!

A tidbit about my inner goddess…

True compassion for others is rooted in genuine compassion for oneself. For a long time, my thoughts and actions were centered around others as a facade for being completely centered around myself. I would aspire to be like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. yet I never noticed how much I despised myself. I would talk about having compassion for others and make judgements against those who did not speak or act kindly with others, when all the while I was blind to the ugly words and actions I  used against my own being. Our own being is the first test for true compassion and if you choose to skip that stage of development, the compassion you have for those around you is inauthentic.

Inside every one of us is a divine creation that we must learn to adore otherwise we are only on one path, and that is the path to self-destruction. Every cell of our being works for a common purpose, and that is to keep us alive and functioning as one unit. Every negative thought or action against our being is a destroyer of life, that is, our own life. We can choose to love and accept ourselves for who we were in the past and who we are in the present, or we can choose to do the opposite. Do you pray to a god whom you adore and sing praises to? That very god is actually inside of you, so love yourself and sing praises to your being!

Many of us may mistake loving our own self for selfishness and this is something I did for a long time, which in turn got me nowhere and actually made me more selfish, which was the opposite of what was intended in the first place!

…Then one fine day my inner goddess stumbled upon something to help treat the disease I had created within myself… She stumbled upon downward facing dog and toppling tree! She still literally stumbles in a variety of poses, but without stumbling there is no room for growth, learning, and self-acceptance. If you haven’t already, meet my dear friend, yoga.