PERFORMANCE YOGA – 02.23.15 (Body Language – Part 1)

A key topic in the business world is a term called “power pose.”  It’s all about body language.  It’s all about the persona you project.

The TED Talk above does a great job of explaining the detail to which body language has been studied.  And it has been researched to quite a deep level.  The speaker explains how these postures can truly change our body chemistry.  It is incredible to see (literally) how our physical posture can either aid or damage our body.

1.  Increase in Testosterone – http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/benefits-testosterone (Benefits of Testosterone)
2.  Decrease in Cortisol – http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/cortisol-adrenal-function (Dangers of Sustained High Levels of Cortisol)
3.  Study Proving Data – http://www.people.hbs.edu/acuddy/in%20press,%20carney,%20cuddy,%20&%20yap,%20psych%20science.pdf

Tonight in class we took the time to hold postures a little longer than we typically do.  We were very powerful.  Airplane, Warrior 2, Side Angle and Reverse Warrior asked us to be strong, open and powerful.  Why did we do this?  Because we knew the benefits, internally and externally, that our bodies would absolutely thrive on.

Western culture asks us to hunch over our computers, curl in to look at our phones, and slouch down in our couches.  I’m guilty of all of these (even as I sit here typing this).  Am I saying that we should refrain from all?  No.  “Everything in moderation, including moderation” is the popular phrase from Oscar Wilde.  So let’s hunch over our computers in moderation, curl in to look at our phones in moderation, and slouch down in our couches in moderation.  With amazing benefits of increased testosterone and decreased cortisol, how will we let the world see us?  

Pregame is always an interesting time in a sporting event.  Players and coaches usually do the “eye test.”  They watch one another closely for information.  Incredible to think that posturing prior to games isn’t “show-boating” … there’s science here that proves that it has profound positive effects.  So it’s fourth and goal … game is tied and you have one free throw left … penalty shot is called and the goalie looks on … what will we show the world?  Show power!  Nothing can beat us … no matter what!

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 1)

Body language is a two-way process:  Your own body language reveals your thoughts and feelings to others; and other people’s body language reveals their thoughts and feelings to you.

On game day, what is your body language saying?  What image do you want to project?

Positive/Upbeat Body Language – Smiling, Chin up, Shoulders back/Chest out, Standing tall, Walking strong.

Negative/Glum Body Language – Frowning, Shaking your head, Eyes downcast, Shoulders hunched, Dragging your feet.

When you are gassed at practice, stand tall and walk strong.

Your body language will send the right message to the opposition:  You can’t be mentally beaten or fazed – no matter what happens.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

TRAUMA RELEASE PROCESS – 02.05.15 (A Really Different Approach)

I recently saw the movie “Big Hero Six” and was really amazed by the main themes of dealing with the trauma of loss and the ability to look at life from a different view.  If you haven’t had a moment to see it, then I strongly suggest that you do :).  We all need to smile and feel.

And the long-haired character that shouts out “We’re being attacked by a Super Villain people!” … yeah, his name is Fred! 🙂

What I am getting at is that we all deal with loss and hardship, but will we choose to react in anger and rage or will we reach out in love?  The main character and the villain in the movie both suffer loss.  Each reacts in a very interesting way that is easy.  Hate is easy.  Revenge is easy.  We want back what someone took from us.  We have to question … did what was lost truly belong to us?  How many will we hurt in the wake of our hate and revenge?  Will we run away or stay and face ourselves?  The movie asks these questions  and asks us to “take a different approach.”  

In class last week, we looked at four significant individuals in world history and how they took a different approach.  How can we look at our lives in this present moment from a different perspective?

** Oh yeah … and friends are awesome! 🙂

A Really Different Approach

I realized that the way they dealt with their truly tough times was different from the way many of us handle such times.  These people actually plunged into their most trying experiences, exploring the depths of what had befallen them, feeling the pain of their situation in its immensity, and staying with the difficult time they were going through instead of running from it.

1.  Mahatma Ghandi.  How did this profound insight come out of such intense suffering?  How did imprisonment produce a message that invited humans to rise to a new level of consciousness?

2.  Martin Luther King, Jr.  How did these two simple yet powerful words (“civil disobedience”) – words that were to change the consciousness of a nation – arise from such suffering?

3.  Mother Teresa.  Why would she embrace such a difficult lifestyle?  Of what benefit was this to her?  What did she expect to receive from such sacrifice?

4.  Nelson Mandela.  Why didn’t he leave prison bitter, angry, and even more in conflict with the government of his nation than when he was first incarcerated?

But I have become convinced that, in our avoidance, denial, and fear, we push away the very experiences that seek to stimulate the evolution of our consciousness.  In fact, we deny ourselves the opportunity to become the person we yearn to be and are ultimately destined to become.

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 02.03.15 (Tapas – Self Discipline)

The social and personal ethics of Yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, allow us observe how we treat ourselves and those we interact with.  If I could have a favorite, then it would be Tapas.  I have gone through my life playing competitive sports and the concept of “burning” is not new to me.  In my adult life, I have continued with the several athletic hobbies that I have listed before.  I am in love with the “burning” sensation that I feel in my muscles from a long bike ride, the third period of a hockey game, and the final set of a tennis match.  Love it!

Where I had to look at Tapas from a different perspective was in regards to my habits.  Stress is a funny thing.  Sometimes we tend to live with it for no apparent reason.  We hold on to thoughts and feelings that are either rooted in the past or present.  When we do that, it affects our physical bodies.  Not cool.  

So I have a choice … continue to damage my physical body staying lost in the past and possible future I may manifest or use the “burning” to remove those choices and habits to become active in the present moment.  Which will we choose this moment?

**  Side note … anyone got any good soup recipes? 🙂  Tapas always makes me hungry for some reason too.

Tapas – Self Discipline

Tapas literally means “heat,” and can be translated as catharsis, austerities, self-discipline, spiritual effort, change tolerance, or transformation.  Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else.  It is our determined effort to become someone of character and strength.  Much like cooking an egg denatures the egg, changing it into a different structure, Tapas eventually changes our nature, turning us into a cauldron that can withstand any of life’s challenges.  Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.

There is a bumper sticker which states, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” We can chuckle all we want, but there is great truth to this statement.  Tapas can take us to the place where all of our resources are used up, where there is nothing left but weakness, where all of our so-called “props” have been taken away.  It is in this barren place, where we have exhausted all that we have and all that we are, that new strength is shaped and character is born if we choose to fearlessly open ourselves to the experience.  It is perhaps the greatest gift life could offer us.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 02.02.15 (Anxiety Management)

Anxiety isn’t a bad thing.  It means that we care.  We’re worried that the goals that we’ve set for ourselves and the moments that come up in our lives.  Our humanity is defined by our ability to have compassion for others and ourselves.  So we’re normal (or whatever our own definition of that word is, ha!).

As a middle school math/science teacher for the past twelve years, I have witnessed countless forms of anxiety … test anxiety, athletic performance anxiety and social anxiety.  I’ve watched numerous young adults attempt to learn how to deal with anxiety.  I’ve seen anxiety turn to anger, panic and frustration.  All they want to do is their best.  They’re normal (or whatever is normal for a middle schooler, ha!).

Anxiety can drive us insane, but it can also drive us to peak performance levels.  Will we accept the moment and let go of a future that doesn’t exist?  When we allow anxiety to drive us to panic, we manifest a future that we truly do not desire.  When we accept each moment as an opportunity to display something new and amazing, we find ourselves so driven to excel.  Let’s not allow anxiety to bring about panic, but let’s bring the performance of the moment be brilliant, amazing and beautiful.

Anxiety Management:  Go from Panicky to Pumped!

Anxiety or excitement is proof that they, and you, care about performance and outcomes.

A panic response is thus an exaggerated mind-body reaction – a false alarm – that can be diffused or redirected.  Our instinctive responses to panic are always counterproductive, such as fleeing, isolating ourselves, trying too hard to relax, or beating ourselves up mentally.

What you truly fear, if you are willing to admit it, is embarrassment that you will fail to perform in the moment and because of that must suffer the consequences of anxiety and panic.

Panicking is not going crazy, but rather the manifestation of fear of a terrible outcome.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

Trauma Release Process – 01.29.15 (Life is Traumatic)

Last week we started a new book in my Thursday night “Flow with Fred” class.  “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli.  The first few pages do a wonderful job of discussing how each one of us has been affected by trauma.  Yes, the events that have happened to me may or may not be more traumatic than the events of your life.  Trauma is completely in eye of the one affected.  Therefore, we have no business ridiculing or simple pushing to the side the stories that friends, family and complete strangers pass entrust us with.

The stress we accumulate throughout our days is unnecessary.  When we stay at war with our past and future selves, we will stay anxious and become stressful.  There are several studies that outline the effects of stress on the human body.  Where we can find comfort is in the Now.  Let go of the difficult and tense and replace those thoughts with the excitement of right now!

We will all continue to experience trauma in our lives.  Where we have power is in how we choose to respond to the events.  Will we stay rooted in fear and anxiety or will we choose to remain joyful in the moments that we have?  Life is traumatic … for us all.  Please don’t feel like you’re alone in this world … because you’re not :).

Life is Traumatic

Throughout our lives, we continually face the possibility of painful experiences.  Though some of us lead easier, less stressful lives than others, none of us escape difficult times entirely.

By resisting what we don’t like, we actually compound our discomfort.  By being at war with ourselves, we make ourselves anxious and our days stressful.  Life gets more difficult, and we become even more tense.

However, it’s not the events that cause the damage to our health.  It’s how we respond to them.

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 01.27.15 (SANTOSHA – The Paradox of Not Seeking)

I am guilty of trying to fit a ridiculous amount of challenges, successes, failures and opportunities into my moments.  I love to experience as much as possible, but at the expense of being content.  For a number of years, I would revisit the past and argue with myself over time lost here and time lost there.  However, my thinking has changed.  Each and every one of those moments is framed in ice.  They sit there for me to see as they are.  They cannot be thawed out and manipulated into what I may think is more beneficial or pleasing.  They are there…forever.

Where I can find joy is in the moment that lies presently.  I use this blog to send out my thoughts to those I meet physically and digitally in hopes that my research and struggles may help in some way.  Writing on here takes time.  I’m not a fabulous writer, but I rest in the fact that my writing is honest and sincere.  This moment that I type right now I could be on my bike trainer, I could be doing some dirty dishes, or I could still be asleep.  I chose this moment for myself and for you.  Be content with each moment and fall in love with you.

SANTOSHA – The Paradox of Not Seeking

Discontentment is the illusion that there can be something else in the moment.  There isn’t and there can’t be.  The moment is complete.  That means if I am bored or sad, I will only be discontented if I am not content to be bored and sad.  Building contentment with boredom, sadness, impatience, depression, disappointment, and loss, builds our ability to be that tall tree so rooted in the earth that great winds cannot topple it.  Being content with our discontentment is itself a gateway to the calm depths within.

Santosha, or contentment, is performing duty and right action with pure joy.  It is the true understanding that there is nothing more that can or does exist that this very moment.  When we are purely in the moment, the moment is complete.

Scholars have learned that there is nothing missing; life is complete the way it comes to us in each moment.  When we understand this, we sink into contentment.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 01.26.15 (Mental Toughness: Build Your Inner-Strength Bank Account)

Our minds are mean.  People are rude.  Our minds are self-destructive.  People can cut to our core.  

It is so easy to fall into a depressive, self-loathing state through our own thoughts of the past and potential future.  It is even easier to do it when it is compounded by others.  Mental toughness is the skill that truly defines a successful athlete and a powerful human.  

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ – Muhammad Ali

Our struggles develop us through each new moment.  We are not defined by our past, but by our choices in the present moment.  So I ask … how tough are we?  Not physically … but mentally.  Can we lose and get back up?  Can we fall and get back up?  Can we get bruised and try again?  Can we let go of each failure and look at this next attempt as the moment a struggle becomes a strength?  

Mental toughness takes into account each answer to these questions.  Will we deposit more than we withdraw?

Mental Toughness: Build Your Inner-Strength Bank Account

“Mental toughness does not entail clenching your teeth, trying harder, thinking more, straining your eyes to focus, or having someone scream ‘Be Tough!’ at you.  Mental toughness is the ability to remain positive and proactive in the most adverse of circumstances.

Mental toughness is built on doing the thing that is hard over and over again, especially when you don’t feel like doing it.  Push through on your down days when you are not feeling your best.  Distraction, discomfort, and difficulties are no match for the champion.

This dogged determination requires keeping your feet moving forward through inconveniences, substantial discomfort, and insecurities to reach your top goal.  When you want something really badly, don’t give up until you’ve got it.

Mental toughness can be demonstrated at a particular moment in time or over the long term, as in your overall career success.  Doing the thing that is hard over and over again is like depositing money in your inner-strength bank account.”

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

PRACTICING THE POWER OF NOW – 1.22.15 (Finding the Life Underneath the Life)

Physical and psychological problems of the body require space to heal.  The space is necessary for something new.  The new occupies the space and provides what is needed to regain homeostasis.  Sounds simple, right?  Ha!

There is truth to the idea of creating space in the Now.  When we release past thoughts from the psyche and allow them to not hold power over our life story, we have space.  When we release future thoughts from the psyche and allow them to not hold power over our life story, we have space.  When we take deep breathes in an asana like Warrior 1, we elongate muscle tissue and have space.  The space created offers us the necessary room to grow.  

Throughout the day today, let’s find space.  

Practicing the Power of Now – Find the Life Underneath the Life

“When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution.  So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.

Listen to the sounds; don’t judge them.  Listen to the silence underneath the sounds.
Touch something – anything – and feel and acknowledge it without judgment.

You are leaving behind the deadening world of mental abstractions, of time.  You are getting out of the insane mind that is draining you of life energy, just as it is slowly poisoning and destroying the Earth.  You are awakening out of the dream of time into the present.”

BOOK – “Practicing the Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle (BUY ME!!!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 01.20.15 (Santosha – Gratitude)

Western culture is built upon comparison.  I compare what I have to what you have.  In that comparison comes a number a number of responses such as jealousy, greed, stress, anger, frustration and the list goes on.  The possessions we do not have play so many tricks on us.

The “Thank You” game is fun to play.  However, don’t dip into the past and resist being thankful for the future.  Play the “Thank You” game in the Now.  What do you find yourself thankful for right now as you read this?  I am thankful for an open mind.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for my love of helping others.  Your response may be similar to mine or completely different.  But I challenge you to stay in the present and play the game.  The results are quite interesting …

True joy and gratitude doesn’t come from the next possession, but rather the level of contentment we have with our true self.  When we let go of the image we believe others want to see and remove pettiness and smallness from our lives, there we will find true contentment with who we are.  Our own unique true self.  You’re beautiful.

Santosha – Gratitude

Let’s play the thank you game.  I had no idea what the thank you game was, but I began to search hard for clues and cracks and pauses in which I could, with some kind of honesty, say thank you to life.  What I discovered turned my world upside down.  It wasn’t long before my step was lighter and slowly almost everything began to bring a smile to my face and words of gratitude to my heart.  I was alive again, and my life was enchanting.

Practicing gratitude protects us from our own pettiness and smallness and keeps us centered in the joy and abundance of our own life.  When stimulation pulls at us and disturbance beckons us, it is the gratitude uttered from our lips that keeps us strongly rooted in contentment.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 01.19.15 (Breath Control – Breathe Life into Your Performance)

As an athlete, there are numerous variables being thrown into situations.  It is incredibly hard to stay focused on the present moment because of these variables.  So many athletes are prized for their ability to see a play before it happens.  I’ll ask though … how many plays have been not executed properly due to this?  I almost missed a wide open net in my hockey game this past Sunday evening because I was so focused on a celebration that hadn’t even begun.

An elite athlete does a phenomenal job of balancing the past failures and successes with the future failures and successes by being stable in the Now.  A great way to bring ourselves back to this is through the breath.  In life, and in sports, we can become overwhelmed by our failures.  They can drive us to stop moving forward.  They can cause self-doubt and may even keep us from trying.  Come back to the breath.  Full and deep in … and full and relaxed out.  It is simple and brings us back from the depths of our own mind.

Breath Control – Breathe Life into Your Performance

To perform at a champion’s level, breathe deeply and rhythmically to maintain peak energy levels.  Proper breathing works in tandem with being a Now-ist (i.e., living fully in the moment).  Expand the belly during inhalation and relax the belly during exhalation.  Let your shoulders drop and jaw relax as you exhale.  Give it a try right now.  Draw in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Proper breathing helps expel the stress and tension from your system and brings you back into the present.

1.  Breathe in through the nose for a count of one, two, three, four and five.
2.  Hold for one and two.
3.  Breathe out through the mouth for a count of one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight.

Extraneous thoughts fog up your focus.  Your mind becomes more powerful as it becomes quieter and clearer.  So breathe deeply and mindfully throughout your day.  Also, when you are not thinking about the future, it’s difficult to fear it.  Fear is the enemy of effective action!

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)